In the world of tape measures, who reigns supreme? We’ve delved into the realm of traditional tape measures before, but recently, magnetic tape measures have been gaining popularity across various industries. These innovative tools combine traditional tape measure functionality with the precision of a blade. What sets them apart is their ability to stick to any ferrous material, providing unmatched convenience. Additionally, these tape measures often come equipped with strong magnets, making them useful as magnetic pickup tools. With this in mind, we embarked on a quest to find the best tape measure through a rigorous showdown.
Adjusting the Accuracy of Magnetic Tape Measures
One crucial aspect of tape measures is their accuracy, especially when measuring from the other side of the hook. The companies we assessed were keen on ensuring the accuracy of their tape measures, albeit with slight variations. To evaluate accuracy, we employed the Lixer Master Gage Block.
Dealing with Measurement Complications
To counter measurement complications, some manufacturers adopt subtractive techniques to compensate for tang thickness. For instance, Malco requires a deduction of 1/16″, while Lufkin necessitates a deduction of 1/8″. Klein tape measures, on the other hand, lack explicit instructions, but we measured a deduction of 1/8″. It’s crucial to note that subtraction only applies to the magnetic side of the tang, while normal hook use remains unchanged.
The Convenience of Easy Measurements
Subtraction can be a hassle, especially for those who dislike math. Thankfully, certain brands have come up with innovative solutions. Hart, Milwaukee, and Stanley have designed their tape measures with separate magnets and hooks. When used traditionally, the tang can be slightly extended for precise measurements. On the other hand, when using the magnetic end, the magnet’s attraction ensures a flush tang, guaranteeing accuracy regardless of usage.
Standing Out from the Competition
While discussing the best tape measures, it is imperative to address standout capabilities. Although protrusion distances may appear crucial, measuring horizontal protrusion proved less valuable due to tape flexing and statistical invalidation. However, standout capabilities become relevant when reaching materials that are difficult to access. Stanley Fat Max emerged as the unsurprising winner in this aspect, boasting a horizontal protrusion length of 10’6″.
Magnets and Horizontal Standout Length
The magnetic horizontal standout length is often considered a bragging right rather than a substantive measure. It depends on magnet strength and blade weight. Among the tape measures we tested, Klein’s magnetism proved the strongest. Equipped with two square rare earth magnets, it delivered minimal blade sag.
Impressive Holding Power
All tape measures we tested easily stretched to a length of 25 feet on unpainted heavy gauge steel. To assess holding power on painted surfaces, we compared the cling strength of the magnets. While the magnets varied slightly, all tape measures performed admirably.
Tang Versatility at the End of the Line
The tangs on tape measure ends can significantly impact versatility. For instance, Klein, Milwaukee, and Stanley (to some extent) employ double hook designs, allowing them to be hooked from the top or bottom in non-ferrous applications. Milwaukee’s tape measure stood out by offering the most solid attachment points on the tang, including a second magnet on the bottom of the blade for enhanced grip on round ferrous materials.
Other Notable Features Worth Considering
While tape measures don’t need to be overly fancy, additional features can enhance their usefulness. Some noteworthy features include wire belt clips (offered by Hart and Milwaukee), easy-to-read fractions at 1/8 inch intervals (found on Klein tape measures), and 1/32″ markings (provided by Lufkin). Milwaukee also incorporates a second magnet on the blade’s bottom, enabling a secure hold on round ferrous materials like steel pipes.
When it comes to finding the best tape measure, accuracy reigns supreme. Hart, Milwaukee, and Stanley excel in this aspect by eliminating the need for math or fraction memorization. Holdover capability, the reason we began this journey, sees Klein, Marco, and Stanley taking the lead. Milwaukee emerges as the overall favorite, providing the greatest number of solid attachment points on the tang, thanks to its second magnet. Ergonomically, all the tape measures perform well, allowing for one-handed operation. Durability-wise, Milwaukee’s reinforced frame and rubber overmolding instill confidence. However, the Stanley Fat Max’s Blade Armor and Mylar coatings set it apart. Ultimately, the best tape measure should be manageable and reliable.
Tape Measure Showdown Winners:
- Hart 25′ Tape Measure with Blade Brake: Offers a winning combination of features and an unbeatable price of $13.
- Klein 25′ Magnetic Tape Measure: Impresses with printed scores, strong magnets, and a price of $20.99.
- Malco 25′ Magnetic Tip Tape Measure: Offers durability and a mid-range price of $18.33.
- Milwaukee 25′ Tape Measure: Stands out with an array of features, including a second magnet, and includes a free 16′ model. Priced at $24.97, it’s our top recommendation.
- Lufkin 25′ Hi-Viz Magnetic End Hook Tape Measure: The best choice for budget-conscious buyers, featuring 1/32″ markings and priced at $9.97.
- Stanley Fat Max 25′ Tape Measure: A perennial favorite known for its durability, thanks to Blade Armor and Mylar coatings. Priced at $22.97.
(Note: Tape measure models, specific features, and prices mentioned are as of the original article’s publication date and may have changed since then.)